The Elementary Years

The kids are on a four day weekend, while I am still recovering from my near death experience. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” It’s been a pretty quiet three days, something this Vodka Calling household needed.

Tonight, while everyone else was occupied, I found myself scrolling through Facebook. Quickly, I got bored. I mean there’s only so many pictures of food I can see at a time. I needed to be somewhat productive and decided to begin the online application to find a job in the school district my kids go to.

Maybe it was the NyQuil, maybe it was the vodka, most likely a combination of both, but I had the bright idea to look up my old elementary school on Facebook. I am pretty good at finding people on social media, and, well, before I knew it I was in the “Tussing Elementary Alumni Facebook Group.”

From kindergarten through the fourth grade I attended Tussing Elementary school in Colonial Heights, Virginia. I hated that school, and yet here I am in their alumni group.

These fools were trying to plan some sort of reunion, because who does not want to revisit their elementary years?! I am reading the posts, with all these not-so-good memories coming back at me and still, I do not leave the damn group.

One post, in particular, stuck out.

“Attention Tussing Alumni, I am trying to find the following people. If they are on your friends’ list, please add them to the group.”

Quickly, I glance through the list of about 50 names. Not going to lie. For a fleeting second, I thought to myself “How cool would it be if my name was actually on the list?!”

Yeah, my name was not on the list. Why would it be? No one liked me. I seriously had no friends. You could go to any one of these people who attended school the same year I did. Hell, you can even go to my fellow classmates and say “I wonder whatever happened to Jennifer Orotlano?” And they would be like “WHO???!!!!”

Mark my words.

However, what I did find was a bit more…nostalgic.

I found a picture of my kindergarten teacher from the 1978-1979 school year. Now, I was not in this particular class, give it another year or so, and Miss Curtis would be my very first teacher.

That’s her, on the left!

From that point, it was pretty easy for me to find her Facebook page.

Miss Curtis is no longer Miss Curtis. She is now a happily married retired school teacher.


Miss Curtis was THE teacher to have. Everyone wanted her, with good reason. I had her, and she certainly lived up to her reputation. Back in the day, the kindergarten teachers would come to your house and do a visit, before the start of school. When Miss Curtis came to my house, in a moment of excitement, I fell down the stairs landing at her feet just as my mother opened the door. We are off to a great start!

Well, now I was on a roll! Who else could I find? Pretty much, anyone, the question is, who else do I want to find?

Miss Reidmiller.

Miss Reidmiller was my art teacher during the years at Tussing Elementary. She was drop dead gorgeous! Now, remember this was the beginning of the 80’s, where big feathered hair and blue eyeshadow were a must-have.

Every year for Halloween, Miss Reidmiller would transform her classroom into a haunted house, with the fifth graders participating in said haunted house. Think witches, goblins, that sort of thing. I have no idea how she did it, but it was amazing. The “Haunted House” (classroom) was open to the public and always had long lines. I of course, never made it through without crying.

I remember one time in art class, we were making kites. The entire class had painted our own individual kites on a Friday, we let them dry in the classroom over the weekend, then on Monday, in art class, we would take them out to see if they could fly. On this Monday morning, Miss Reidmiller was going through the two full-size tables that had our kites laid out. She would call each of us by name, we would then pick up our kite, take it back to our seat and just wait.

Well, because I have the luck of a shoe, I somehow forgot to put my name on my kite. When Miss Reidmiller got to my kite, the only one left on the damn table, she held it up “This one does not have a name on it? Anyone know who it belongs to?”

I was oblivious to my idiot classmates. All they had to do was look around and see little Jenny sitting all by herself without a kite, and boom, process of elimination, but no, that did not happen. What happened was, when no one claimed the kite, Miss Reidmiller held the kite up for all to see.

“Anyone, this one has to have an owner.”

All the kids started laughing, pushing their chairs away from the table

“That’s the ugliest kite there is, it’s not mine!”

Bastards. I wanted to die. So there I was, making the walk of shame up to Miss Reidmiller to claim my kite. She took the kite, placed it in my arms

“It’s a beautiful kite sweetie.”

I was too shy, too embarrassed to look her in the eye. I just took my kite and made the quiet walk back to my table, and ignored the snickers along the way. The way those kids made me feel that day, I will never forget. I mean look at me, here I am thirty plus years later still talking about it, but I will also never forget how Miss Reidmiller made me feel a bit better. Because in my eyes, if this beautiful Farrah Fawcett look-alike teacher thought my kite was beautiful, then that had to mean something.

Miss Reidmiller, gorgeous as ever!

I started thinking about all my other teachers in elementary school. Miss Jordan was my first-grade teacher. Her attire consisted of mini skirts and heels. The boys loved her, as did their dads, me not so much. Perhaps it has something to do with me peeing in my pants and refusing to admit it….on multiple occasions.

“Jenny, did you have an accident?”
“Nope, no accident, I spilled water.”

“But the “water” is under your desk, and it’s yellow, and there is no cup.”
“It was someone else’s cup!”

Yeah, Miss Jordan and I butted heads a lot!

For second grade I had Mrs. Morris, and when I had to repeat the second grade, I then had Miss Nugent.

Mrs. Morris was a wonderful seasoned teacher who was most likely close to retiring when she had me, so she is, you know, probably dead by now. She always wore the best perfume and was so very patient with me. A class act.

Miss Nugent, she was on to me. She probably got dealt the short end of the straw when it came time for me to repeat the second grade. I do not know what it was, even in the second grade I knew the kids did not like me, and because of that, I just did not want to try. What was the point?

In 3rd grade, I had Mrs. Barfield, who to this day I swear was a lesbian. She always wore pinstripe pants and cute little bow ties, and, well, I do not know, this is how the mind of a 3rd grader works!

One time in class we were taking a spelling test. Another “Jenny” (back then everyone was a Jennifer or a Jenny) was sitting in front me. This Jenny was popular, she had friends and her mother was also a teacher in the building. I was screwed before I even began. Well, good ole popular Jenny was cheating on her spelling test! She had the words written on her arm. Are you kidding me?!?! I spent a week going over the spelling words and here this bitch is writing them on her arm. Well, 3rd grade me was not having it! As soon as Mrs. Barfield called us up to turn in our spelling test in, I told her right then and there in front of everyone “Mrs. Barfield, Jenny has the spelling words written on her arm.”

Complete silence. Mrs. Barfield quietly told me she would talk to Jenny one on one while directing the rest of the kids back to their seat.

You see, my mouth has always gotten me into trouble because, in the end, everyone got mad at me for “telling on” Jenny.

In fourth grade, I had Mrs. Passapoulo. She was pretty nice. She was also 8 months pregnant so I only had her for a week before she left on maternity leave. Anyone want to take a guess on who her replacement was? Jenny’s mother! Not even kidding. It gets better. Jenny was also in my class. So I had Jenny, and I had her mother as a teacher. There was seriously no hope for me. Her mother never liked me because I ratted her precious princess out, and Jenny never liked me because no one else did, so why should she?

In 5th grade, I had Mrs. McDermont briefly. We were about to move, I was going to a new school and I could not be any happier. Mrs. McDermont was a little grey-haired lady who had been teaching for years. She knew it all, no one could get one over on her, except me.

As she was collecting science homework, science homework that I never did, I told her “Mrs. McDermont, I am so sorry but I spilled koolaide on my homework and did not have time to redo it.” Mrs. McDermont looked at me, gave me a hug “Well, I am sorry to hear that dear. It happens. How about you do it tonight?”

Well shit. Now I felt bad. I just lied to this woman who actually believed me. Nervously I raised my hand. “Mrs. McDermont, I am sorry, I lied. I did not spill koolaide on my homework, I just did not do it.” Mrs. McDermont gave me a look. A look at the time I assumed was complete understanding. However going back in time, I realize it was a look of “I know you did not do your homework, I just needed you to admit to it.”

Shortly after that, we moved to a new school. Thank you, Jesus! I know there was a period of time where my parents felt guilty for taking me out of a school I knew a school that I was familiar with. I know my parents felt guilty for moving my sister and me into a new house. Little did my parents know, this was exactly what I needed. I needed a new start, because where I was, well it just was not working for me. It never did.

Lakeview Elementary. I came to Lakeview in the latter half of fourth grade and would remain there for most of my sixth grade. It was a whole new world. However, in the beginning, it was rough.

I was in the restroom one day, a bunch of fellow classmates were also in the restroom making fun of me because I was fat. Being one to never hold my emotions in, I ran out of the restroom crying. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Mayes, happened to see me come out of the restroom in tears. She took me in her arms, asked me what was wrong, and I told her with tears in my eyes “They called me fat.”

As soon as the class was situated back in the classroom, Mrs. Mayes laid into them. She made sure the class, her class understood that under no circumstance would there be any name calling. Then, Mrs. Mayes started crying as she was telling the class about her days in school when she was made fun of. Never again, from that point on, never again did anyone make fun of me.

In 5th grade, I met my new friend. Stephanie just moved to Colonial Heights from Georgia. Stephanie was tall, skinny and beautiful. I already knew there was no point in me trying to be her friend. I figured all the popular kids would congregate to her. Except, somehow we did become friends. We would sit together at lunch and eventually get to the point where would spend the night at each others house. Stephanie’s mom was a hair stylist and would always cut my hair, trying to teach me the art of “feathering.” Stephanie and I would stay up late, making up a dance routine to Hearts “Never” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” while eating junk food and talking about boys.

I had my first crush in 5th grade. Buck Seward. He was a nice boy who somehow was able to look past what all the others were not. We would talk in class and sit next to each other at lunch. When it came time for me to move again, Buck walked me out to my bus for the last time and promised to keep in touch, as long as I would not get fat. I mean I kinda get it. At least at the time, I did.

So, as I am reliving my elementary school days on Facebook, Buck and Stephanie were the first ones I tried to look up. I was never able to find Buck. It’s not like he would remember me, but I did find Stephanie.

Stephanie is absolutely stunning. Going off of her facebook page she is happily married with a little boy.

I am sitting at my computer, looking at her page, coughing, sneezing, in shorts and a stained t-shirt scarfing M&M’s down my throat as fast as I could. I am looking at her pictures, I am reading about her life, are you kidding me?!?! This girl looks better now some thirty years later then she did back in her heyday.

I told you she was stunning!

At this point, all I could think was “Good thing my Facebook settings are pretty locked down!”

Sometimes I wonder, assuming my fellow classmates actually remember my name, what would they think of me today? Would they feel bad for the way they treated me? Would they even remember? Would it matter? Did I ever matter?

I spent tonight filling out the first portion of the online job application to become a Para in my own children’s school district. It was both intimidating and stressful. When it got to the part of “Former Employer” I was ready to throw in the towel. I have not been a “paid employee” since 2004. No one is going to want a washed up “Housewife.”

Then, once again I was transformed back to my elementary years.

Miss Curtis, she would come talk to me on the playground when I had no one else to play with.

Miss Jordan, as tough as she was, she made me see that life was not going to be easy, and the sooner I learn that, the better.

Mrs.Morris and Miss Nugent, my second-grade teachers, Mrs. Barfield, Mrs. Passapoula, and who could forget Mrs. Mayes, unbeknownst to them, they all in their own way, taught me lessons that would bring me to this point in time. This point right here where I am putting it all on an online job application. My previous teachers taught me so much more than your typical spelling and math lessons. That taught me both what I should and should not strive to be.

So, here I am, stalling with the application, yet in a full circle moment. I need this. This moment right here, the teachers of my past, and my teachers, my mentors in the present, collectively, they will all bring me to my future.

And hopefully, just hopefully I learned something along the way.

Doing what I do best, relating to 3rd graders.

One teacher took a chance on me.
One teacher saw in me what I did not see in myself.
And it is because of this teacher, and all those that came before him, it is because of them that I am here, getting ready to apply for a job in the district.

And now it is time I take a chance on myself.








One thought on “The Elementary Years

  1. Wonderful post!
    Whether you get the job or not….. all you have to do is look into the eyes of some of those kids that need you….
    you have posted about some of the things they have said to you… how much you mean to them. What you Have experienced has allowed you to be prepared to help one who is going through the same thing today. When we wonder why we are going through hard times….. I honestly believe God is saying; “give me time…trust me…. i’ll Show you” the job, any job is not important to Him…. what’s importnat to him are the little lives that can be helped. The little lives that can find rest and maybe some security in being around someone who understands..
    He’s already given you that job…. and you are performing it well.

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